May 30, 2009
Born in Kiev in 1916, Ephraim Katzir immigrated to Palestine with his family at the age of 9. He earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and later taught there. In 1949 he was hired to be the founding head of the biophysics department of the Weizmann Institute of Science, receiving the Israel Prize for natural sciences in 1959. Katzir began his long career with the Israeli Government in 1966, when he became chief scientist of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
In his scientific career, Katzir was known for developing a method of binding enzymes, which laid the foundation for the modern pharmaceutical practice of enzyme engineering. Katzir was heralded as an educational innovator in Israel. Contributing to the training of a generation of Israeli scientists, Katzir formulated national scientific policies and translated many scientific materials into Hebrew, establishing a body of work for a popular Israeli scientific magazine.
Katzir’s presidency began on May 24, 1973, just five months before the October 1973 (Yom Kippur) War. The new president spent significant time visiting wounded soldiers and meeting with bereaved families during the aftermath of the war. During his tenure, he also had the honor of welcoming his Egyptian counterpart and former enemy, Anwar Sadat, during Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977.